Parental Influence on Children’s Career Development in Middle Childhood in Mainland China: Perspectives of Parents and Children

Liu, Jianwei (2014). Parental Influence on Children’s Career Development in Middle Childhood in Mainland China: Perspectives of Parents and Children PhD Thesis, School of Education, The University of Queensland.

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Author Liu, Jianwei
Thesis Title Parental Influence on Children’s Career Development in Middle Childhood in Mainland China: Perspectives of Parents and Children
School, Centre or Institute School of Education
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2014-09-27
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Mary McMahon
Mark Watson
Total pages 241
Total black and white pages 241
Language eng
Subjects 130399 Specialist Studies in Education not elsewhere classified
Abstract/Summary Middle childhood (6 to 12 years of age) is a crucial period of lifespan career development. Children in this age span are capable of understanding the occupational world in a relatively realistic way and have begun to learn about the world of work and to develop stereotypical career perspectives. Parents play a significant role in children’s career development. However, compared with adolescents and adults, much less research has been conducted on child career development, let alone on how parents influence such development. Furthermore, most extant research and theories in the field of child career development are based on western contexts, which may limit their application to other cultural contexts, including mainland China. Compared with western cultures, the emphasis of xiao (孝: filial piety), a core concept in Confucian culture, in addition to the one-child policy in mainland China makes the only child the focus of family attention, which suggests that Chinese parents may be more influential in the career development of their children than their western counterparts. Such a unique cultural context demonstrates the significance of examining child career development and the influence of parents in mainland China. The aim of this study was to explore mainland Chinese children’s career development, in particular career knowledge and career aspirations, and how parents influence children’s career development in middle childhood. The exploratory nature of the research and the focus on the process of how parents influence children’s career development justified the use of a qualitative research approach. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) as a qualitative research approach allows the researcher to gain indepth understanding of the participants’ lived experience through interpretation of the participants’ sense making of their experiences and by focusing on a small homogenous sample. Based on IPA, 10 fifth-grade Chinese children and both of their biological parents were recruited through a key public school in Beijing. The data were collected through semi-structured interviews, supplemented by a demographic questionnaire to collect background information from both children and parents. Each child was invited to do a drawing of the career they aspired to in order to stimulate their interest in the research topic and thus to elicit rich data. A one-to-one interview was conducted with each child, each father and each mother. The interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Data analysis followed guidelines suggested for researchers using IPA and was conducted one interview at a time by coding themes and superordinate themes. The researcher then identified patterns (superordinate themes) first across children and then across parents, after which a comparison were made to identify the commonalities and differences between the parents and the children. The results show that the mainland Chinese children, like their western counterparts, were capable of understanding the world of work. They gained knowledge of work activities, career rewards, career requirements, work conditions and career gender appropriateness. Based on such knowledge, they envisioned their future in the world of work by matching their intrapersonal characteristics and values and beliefs to the careers. Their interests, as well as the value of education, were the primary reason for aspiring to a career while gender was an important reason to rule out careers. The children demonstrated agency in learning about careers from their parents, especially their mothers. The parents generally considered it was too early to think about their children’s future careers and thus did not perceive their role as an intentional influence on child career development. Even so, they admitted they have played a role in their children’s career development. They encouraged their children to make independent career decisions based on their interests as well as other intrapersonal characteristics; they conveyed their values and beliefs, especially the importance of education for future career pursuits, and their career expectations for children to engage in high-income, non-manual and non-tiring work. The mainland Chinese parents therefore, on the one hand, paid great attention to the intrapersonal characteristics of their children; on the other hand, they conveyed parental expectation for children to pursue high-status careers, especially by repeatedly emphasising education. Such influence reflects a mix of western and eastern ideologies, and could lead to internal conflict in the children’s future career decision making. The findings suggest a need to support mainland Chinese children’s career development learning through systematic career learning programs, as well as the possibility of applying western theories to mainland Chinese children’s career development. Meanwhile, the findings emphasise the importance of cultural influence in career development and reinforce the need for the internationalisation of career development theory, research and practice.
Keyword mainland China
middle childhood
career development
parental influence

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Created: Sat, 27 Sep 2014, 10:58:39 EST by Jianwei Liu on behalf of Scholarly Communication and Digitisation Service